In a series of attacks against Palestinian-owned properties, illegal Jewish settlers torched and vandalised a West Bank mosque in the village of Jabaa, five miles from Jerusalem and Ramallah, on Tuesday. The Mayor of Jabaa, Abdul Kareem Besharat, said that large sections of the mosque were damaged when settlers set fire to the mosque at 1am.
"Many residents rushed to extinguish the fire, but unfortunately they were too late," said Mr Besharat. "Besides the carpets, the fire damaged the doors and the windows of the mosque and huge losses occurred."
The arsonists left behind offensive graffiti including "price tag", the calling card of right-wing settlers in their campaign of intimidation in retaliation for the government's alleged dismantling of some West Bank settlements which are illegal even under Israeli law. Also scrawled on the wall of the mosque was "Ulpana war"; Ulpana is the name of the illegal settlement in the West Bank that is slated to be evacuated early next month, after Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the outpost was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, such graffiti is an act of "terror". Such activities harm not only Israel, he claimed, but also the settlement enterprise itself. "Just yesterday," added Ayalon, "I told a Hasbara conference that price tag attacks are illegal and immoral, and gravely undermine the image of Israel and the settlement enterprise under the gaze of the international community." Writing on his Facebook page, Ayalon said, "We must not allow such acts of terrorism to continue."
Israeli police officers said that the attack was the fourth against a mosque in the last 18 months and was part of a recent escalation by radical settlers. In fact, Palestinians say that it is the sixth attack in two years. A spokesman for the police, Micky Rosenfeld, tried to play down the severity of the crime. He told reporters that several suspects entered Jabaa early on Tuesday, broke a large window in the mosque and then lit a fire which burned several yards of a carpet and wall.
However, Zakaria al-Zebda, an activist with Rabbis for Human Rights, said: "The escalation against mosques and holy places is increasing because no detention is carried out against those terrorist Jews who are responsible for such actions."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, calling the assailants "intolerant and irresponsible lawbreakers" and insisting that they will be brought to justice.
Hamas also condemned the attack but accused the Israeli government of taking part in the crime, saying that it is part of "a continuous aggressive methodology". The Hamas statement pointed out that the Israeli occupation forces had prevented journalists from covering the incident. "This proves that they are part of the problem and that their role is to protect the settlers."
The Islamic Resistance Movement called on Palestinians to unite against the crimes of the Israeli occupation and its settlers, and said that the Arab League, Muslim relief organisations and all other human rights bodies should stand beside the Palestinians in order to stop the "racist Israeli crimes" committed against them.